The Brundtland Commission Report

The Brundtland Commission Report authored by ‘World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED)’ on the subject of ‘Sustainability’ was published in 1987. This document is also called the ‘Brundtland Report’ owing to Norwegian Prime Minister Brundtland who chaired WCED. The drafting of the document was an exercise of 900 days that cataloged, analyzed, synthesized written submissions and testimony of scientists, experts, institutes, NGOs, and the general public. Firstly, the text defined ‘Sustainable development’ as ‘development which meets the requirements of today without compromising future generations’ ability to satisfy their own needs.

Our Common Future
The Brundtland Commission Report

Queries Regarding Our Common Future, The Brundtland Commission Report

What are the three goals proposed in The Brundtland Commission Report?
What is the importance of the report Our Common Future?
How do you reference Our Common Future?
Which famous report on sustainable development was titled Our Common Future?

WCED & the Agenda for Change.

The World Commission on the Environment and Development has been urged to establish “a worldwide agenda for change.” This was an urgent appeal from the United Nations General Assembly:

In an ever-growing number of polluted worlds, the report “Our Common Future” is not a forecast for an ever-increasing environmental decline, poverty, and pain. Instead, it sees the possibility for a new era of economic growth, one that must be based on politics that sustain and expand the environmental resource base.
Hence, the Brundtland Report placed environmental issues firmly on the political agenda intending to discuss environment and development as a single and identical issue. With our publication of the Common Future and the work of the World Commission on Environment and Development, the Rio Declaration was convened in 1992, Agenda 21 was adapted, and Sustainable Development Commission was set up.

Contents of The Brundtland Commission Report

The report consisted of the following contents:

  1. A Threatened Future
  2. Towards Sustainable Development
  3. The Role of the International Economy
  4. Population and Human Resources
  5. Food Security: Sustaining the Potential
  6. Species and Ecosystem: Resources for Development
  7. Energy: Choices for Environment and Development
  8. Industry: Production More with Less
  9. The Urban Challenge
  10. Managing the Commons
  11. Peace, Security, Development, and the Environment
  12. Towards common action: institutional and legal change proposals

Another brief explanation of The Brundtland Commission Report is

The Brundtland Commission Report, published in 1987 as Our Common Future, declared that the time had come for a marriage between the environment and the economy and used the term sustainable development will not jeopardize the ability of future generations to benefit from the earth’s benefits.

Historical Importance of The Brundtland Commission Report

The most urgent task of that time was to persuade nations of the need to return to multilateralism. There was a time of optimism and growth in the 1960s when a braver new world and progressive international ideas became more hopeful. Natural resources blessed colonies to become nations. Local partnerships and sharing seemed to be being followed seriously. Paradoxically, the 1970 UNHuman Environment Conference brought together industrialized and developed countries to outline the rights of the human family to health. The following were a series of meetings on people’s rights to appropriate nour ishment, healthy housing, safe water, access to their families in size.

In the decade scientists have pointed to critical, but complex, survival problems: a warming world, threats to the earth’s ozone layer, desert-eating territory. The world community must thus react with greater specificity and allocate the problems to institutions that are not well placed to deal with them. Before The Brundtland Commission Report , Environmental degradation was considered only the issue of rich nations and the side effect of industrial wealth. But now, it started to be seen as a survival issue for developing nations.

The most important change The Brundtland Commission Report ought to bring was to inculcate thinking that “The environment is where we all live, and developments in the process of improving our lives in that residence” Both are interrelated. Many essential challenges of survival relate to unequal development, poverty, and population expansion. They all place unprecedented pressures on the planet’s land, waters, forests, and other natural resources, not least in developing countries. The downward spiral of poverty and environmental degradation constitutes a waste of resources and opportunities. It’s a waste of human resources in particular. These links between poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation formed a major theme in the report’s analysis and recommendations. What was needed now is a new era of economic growth-growth that is forceful and at the same time socially and environmentally sustainable.

We should spread the world together and develop an integrated interdisciplinary approach to global issues and the common future of ourselves (Brundtland).


To recapture the spirit of the Stockholm Conference, this document targets multilateralism and interdependence of nations in search of a sustainable development path. The major targets of this document are:

  • Proposing long-term sustainable development environmental policies by and after 2000.
  • To recommend ways of addressing the environment, greater cooperation between developing countries and among countries at different stages of economic and social developments can lead to the realization of common and mutually supportive goals that take into account human, resources, the environment, and development interrelations.
  • To consider ways and means by which the international community can deal more efficiently with environmental concerns; and to help define shared perceptions of long-term environmental issues and Appropriate measures to address environmental issues successfully, a long-term action plan in the coming decades and aspirated objectives for the global community.

Critique of The Brundtland Commission Report

The paper identified several environmental difficulties and offered a comprehensive sustainable development path that incorporated social, economic, policy-institutional, and environmental criteria. In the continuous work with sustainability in numerous domains, the idea of sustainability originated by the WCED has since been used and redeveloped. In The Brundtland Commission Report groups who have sought to maintain the holistic original notion were condemned for toning down the social dimension of sustainability.

This document recognized human resource development in the form of poverty reduction, gender equality, and wealth redistribution as crucial to formulating strategies for environmental conservation. But The Brundtland Commission Report was unable to identify modes of production that is responsible for the degradation of the environment. The document laid grounds for the convening of the 1992 Earth Summit and adoption of Agenda 21, Rio Declaration, and the establishment of the Commission on Sustainable Development.

The Brundtland Commission Report Our Common Future consists of four main sections (WCED 1987)

  1. The first examines the various successes and failures surrounding sustainable development, the interconnected nature of the crises, a definition of sustainable development, and the holes currently limiting the ability of institutions to target the problems.
  2. The second focuses on policies, covering human resources and population, food safety, species and ecosystems, sustainable energy, industrial productivity, and urban environment.
  3. The third objective is the international reform, covering the role of the global economy, how peace, security, development, and the environment interrelate with each other, and the institutional and legislative changes necessary for achieving the Bruntland Commission report’s objectives. Part three also highlights the cooperation needed between various stakeholders (Government, civil society, individuals, etc.), how global risks need to be assessed, and making informed choices on those assessments.
  4. Finally, the study ends by A Call for Action, calling for the implementation of the recommendations mentioned.

Implementing The Brundtland Commission Report definitions of sustainability and sustainable development are problematic. Fears can be represented as a “Greenwashing” mentality, while virtually nothing happens. It is intransigently ambiguous in the attractiveness of this hybrid status quo reform viewpoint. Finally, The Brundtland Commission Report bridges the gap between the current quo and the methods to reform. Its definition of sustainability is committed to adjustment, while putting a positive spin on using existing mechanisms, like growth, to facilitate change. However, its focus was so broad that it failed to define what innovations are required and how to value variables within the scope of change.

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